We have taken an extensive look at how sales software and customer relationship management software can impact businesses both large and small. Today, we are going to take a look at a different set of applications, called enterprise resource planning applications. These are similar to sales and marketing software in that they automate some aspects of a business, however enterprise resource planning software is geared more towards finance and logistics, particularly for larger companies. Let’s take a look.
Enterprise Resource Planning Applications
To understand what Enterprise Resource Planning Applications are and what they do, you first need to bring into consideration all of the different processes that are important for running a business which include sales, accounting, human resources, inventory management, distribution process management, customer relationship management (CRM), and product development etc. The primary function of Enterprise Resource Planning Applications is to integrate these various processes for managing information and activities across the entire organization. Enterprise Resource Planning Applications basically work with the help of a shared database which allows multiple processes used by different business units. ERP applications also allow synchronized reporting and automation to some extent which helps the employees to generate reports without maintaining separate database and spread sheets, and merging it manually. Such integrated systems allow streamlined processing among various departments which in turn increase the efficiency and productivity of the entire system. Enterprise Resource Planning Applications also include a portal which helps the employees to understand the business performance on key metrics.
When business data resides in separate systems, the organization becomes dependent on people to manually create the necessary bridges between those systems in order to manage their tasks. Sales and plant managers as well as various company executives must trade their data (spreadsheets, etc) just to perform basic functions such as sales forecasts, respond to proposals, inventory and supply chain management, and come up with product pricing.
Enterprise Resource Planning software helps to eliminate paper-based manual processes. Data moves quickly throughout your operations the moment it appears in your systems. As a result, every person in your enterprise can act as effectively as possible, concentrating on better managing the business based on timely information, rather than wasting resources on gathering and analyzing out-of-date data. The integration provided by the ERP applications, allows the employees to work more efficiently by breaking down the information barrier between different departments. ERP applications help to eliminate unwanted processes and systems and provide the employees with accurate information that enables them to make better decisions without wasting any time, hence dramatically reducing the overall business cost.
ERP software generally comes in the form of multiple modules that can be purchased individually as needed by the organization. Each module is focused on one area of the business process, marketing or sales, for instance. This software is typically used by the dominant players in an industry, meaning companies with many thousands of employees spread out across the world. However, recent times have seen ERP software being marketed to much smaller organizations.
Industry Specific ERP
Enterprise Resource Planning systems for large corporations are often built from the ground up to suit the organization’s specific and unique needs. These software systems can enable great agility and streamlining for the business, allowing them to meet the needs of their market. Naturally, there is significant variation in these software systems, as each industry has its own problems that need solving. The ERP market for large enterprises is controlled by three major players: SAP, Oracle and Microsoft.
ERP programs are highly complex, and will typically require significant computing resources to run. As such, an evolving popular business model is the so called web based ERP. Here the software is running on servers local to the provider and the company streams the data to their own local computers. This is typically referred to as Software as a Service, or Saas. As a business model, this is a departure from years past where businesses would license the software for a group of computers, and pay a large fee up front. With SaaS, the business only pays a recurring monthly fee for as long as they use the service.
One disadvantage of this model is that these fees eventually add up. Over time, this could even end up being a larger expenditure than the traditional licensing model. This is justified as the software provider is required to maintain large amounts of infrastructure to serve the businesses employing their products. Some examples of web based ERP are listed below.
Mobile ERP: With the rise of remote working, executives and company employees want real time access to the latest information from anywhere in the world. It is expected that businesses will embrace mobile ERP to enable agents to conduct business from anywhere in the world.
Cloud ERP: Cloud ERP is an approach to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) that leverages cloud computing infrastructure to provide an organization with more flexible business process transformation. The demand for cloud services in the enterprise sector has been growing for some time, but many ERP users have been reluctant to place data on the cloud. Those reservations have gradually been evaporating, however, as the advantages of the cloud become apparent.
Small Business ERP
Typically, Enterprise Resource Planning Applications are considered as an enterprise utility and are engineered for large organizations that require dedicated teams to analyze and compile data into actionable reports, as well as handle system upgrades and deployment. Small business ERP systems are significantly different, in that they handle less data and generally produce a more minimalist output. Support is offered by the provider and the software features are tailored for the business industry according to its demands.
Enterprise Resource Planning software integrates all aspects of an organization, including development, manufacturing, sales and marketing. For small businesses, the SaaS model is particularly appropriate, as they do not have the large resources and budget to accommodate the computing power needed to run complex software locally. They gain the benefits of project planning, financial statement handling, manufacturing and inventory management, accounting, sales, and customer relationship management solutions without the associated overhead required to run the software locally. However, not every small business may need all the bells and whistles. To meet this scaled down demand, some providers offer smaller systems that meet only specific needs. For instance, your business may only need a system that offers sales and order management, but leaves out the module for warehouse management.
Enterprise Resource Planning Applications vendors offer different forms of systems according to the size, functionality, resources and dynamics of a company. Not every company is the same, choosing the right system isn’t as simple as examining software features and offerings of different vendors. It’s a matter of looking at those features and seeing how they can serve your organizational needs. While every ERP vendor has essentially the same functions, each one services certain industries and company types. Below are some of the best ERPs of different niches.
Microsoft Dynamics AX: No list of best in class software providers would be complete without Microsoft. Microsoft’s solution supports a variety of industries, but has particular strengths in the retail/e-commerce industry.
Oracle JD Edwards: Oracle JD Edwards offers a software suite that integrates financial management, project management, asset life cycle management, and manufacturing management into one convenient package. Better yet, they were the first to enable their software to run on mobile devices, such as the Apple iPad.
Epicor: Epicor provides robust solutions for a number of sectors. Retail software, distribution software, even automotive aftermarket software is all available.
Infor: Infor has a strong reputation in Enterprise Resource Planning Applications for a variety of industries, such as aerospace, automotive, chemicals, fashion, financial services, and food and beverage businesses.
NetSuite OneWorld: NetSuite OneWorld supports financial, currency, taxation, and compliance functionality and reporting in more than 160 countries, and has the capability combine these different finance localizations into a single, consolidated financial statement for an organization that operates across multiple national borders. NetSuite OneWorld has optional modules for customer relationship management, so you can start by just purchasing the financial functionality; you can always extend into these other systems later.
Sage 100: Sage has an established reputation for robust financial software that can be used for a global organization. Sage offers both on-premises and cloud-based systems that are scalable into a larger version of Sage (Sage 300), or even to enterprise grade (Sage 500), which offers a more complete integration of the financials with manufacturing operations.
SAP Business Suite ERP: SAP Business Suite ERP offers a broad spectrum of pick-and-choose modules and functionality so you can build your own ERP package. It offers over 80 separate software packages that can be configured to suit a specific business. Customers are in control of how new ERP enhancements are delivered; either continuously, quarterly or by major software release.
Today we’ve learned about some of the fundamentals of enterprise resource management applications. These are enterprise grade software that integrates numerous functions of a large organization into one software package. It allows multiple teams to coordinate efforts and react to data in real time. One of the best features of this software is that it is typically run remotely as a cloud service, which negates the need for the business to house complex and expensive computing infrastructure. In addition, due to the widespread adoption of mobile devices, most of these applications can be run on mobile devices. This enables key players to access and react to information from anywhere in the world.